This text initially appeared on August 30, 2022 in China Every day.
CHUNG-IN MOON WRITES – The Republic of Korea and China are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their diplomatic relations this 12 months. The relations between the 2 international locations have witnessed a sea change over the previous three a long time. Folks-to-people exchanges rose from 130,000 individuals in 1992 to over 10 million in 2020. China-ROK commerce soared from about $5 billion in 1992 to about $360 billion in 2021. Bilateral investments have additionally grown impressively.
Human and cultural exchanges, together with high-level elite contacts, have expanded exponentially. The maturing bilateral relationship is manifest within the evolutionary adjustments in diplomatic engagement. On the time of their diplomatic normalization in 1992, “an excellent pleasant neighbor” relationship characterised their diplomatic ties. This upgraded right into a “cooperative partnership” in 1998, a “full cooperative partnership” in 2003, and a “strategic cooperative partnership” in 2008.
On the event of the thirtieth anniversary, leaders of the 2 international locations have dedicated to deepening and widening their bilateral relationship on the idea of mutual respect and reciprocity. However, the challenges forward appear daunting, casting a cloud over future relations between the 2 sides.
Probably the most formidable problem comes from the geopolitical dynamics. Going through acute nuclear and standard navy threats, the brand new ROK authorities has been strengthening its alliance with america, whereas upgrading trilateral diplomatic and navy cooperation with the US and Japan. Permitting the deployment of extra US Terminal Excessive Altitude Space Protection system, looking for to affix the Quad, and broadening cooperation with NATO are the hallmarks of the brand new authorities’s safety posture. This underscores a pointy departure from the earlier authorities’s place of strategic ambiguity that tried to keep up the alliance with the US with out essentially undermining the ROK’s strategic cooperative partnership with China.
China sees these strikes as unfavorable and has warned the ROK that it dangers the crucial harm of its ties with Beijing. Conscious of Beijing’s considerations, the federal government of President Yoon Suk-yeol has been adjusting its earlier place by delaying the deployment of the extra THAAD items and never becoming a member of the Quad. And on Aug 9,2022, the Chinese language and ROK international ministers had in-depth alternate of views on THAAD. The 2 sides underlined the necessity to take critically one another’s safety considerations and to try to correctly deal with the difficulty so that it’ll not grow to be a stumbling block to China-ROK relations. However the geopolitical dynamics are placing Seoul in a fragile place, shaking the muse of China-ROK relations.
Geoeconomic conflicts pose one other barrier to the strong China-ROK relations. For the reason that Donald Trump administration, the ROK has been below fixed US strain to realign its financial ties with China by supporting the US’ “decoupling” technique to isolate China from the worldwide worth chains. On the request of the US, the ROK formally joined the Indo-Pacific Financial Framework for Prosperity in Could 2022. It is usually anticipated to take part within the US’ semiconductor chip alliance aimed toward excluding China from the worldwide manufacturing chain. Beijing has overtly expressed its concern at such strikes. At current, China, which is the ROK’s largest buying and selling accomplice, accounts for about 25 % of the ROK’s exports and about 23 % of its imports. Thus, Seoul’s overt financial tilt towards the US is prone to jeopardize its financial relations with China.
Lastly, clashes of nationwide id and the next deteriorating mutual perceptions among the many public are sources of grave concern. Based on an opinion survey made by the Pew Analysis Middle, about 80 % of the ROK respondents had a destructive notion of China, and Chinese language perceptions of the ROK will not be favorable both. Most worrisome is the truth that younger persons are the foremost drivers of such sentiments. They wage fierce battles in cyber house. Their grievances are various, starting from the difficulty of historic sovereignty over the Goguryo dynasty, cultural id feuds over kimchi and Korean costumes, to the financial retaliation that adopted the dispute over the deployment of THAAD in 2017. Such mutually destructive perceptions are crucial elements to bettering wholesome bilateral relations.
However the spectacular developments during the last three a long time, prospects for future relations appear unsure. What ought to be finished to strengthen the bilateral relationship, whereas minimizing the possibilities of additional deterioration?
The bilateral relationship ought to be neither zero-sum (win-lose) nor destructive sum (lose-lose). Each international locations ought to try for a constructive sum (win-win) relationship. They need to make each effort to keep away from being trapped in a Faustian cut price that sacrifices long-term, frequent pursuits for short-term, parochial ones.
China and the ROK ought to adhere to the ideas of mutual respect and reciprocity. Neither unilateral pressures nor opportunistic tinkering are useful for the 2 international locations. On this regard, enhancing and sharing a strategic empathy ought to be a typical objective of the leaders in Beijing and Seoul.
Political, mental and opinion leaders of each international locations ought to work collectively to stop and eradicate persistent faux information, xenophobic sensationalism and extreme politicization. Those that wish to maximize personal positive factors via anti-Korean and anti-Chinese language sentiments ought to be condemned.
Lastly, there ought to be an consciousness that wholesome and mutually useful bilateral relations are important for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.
Chung-in Moon is chairman of the Sejong Institute within the Republic of Korea. The creator contributed this text to China Watch, a assume tank powered by China Every day.
The views don’t essentially mirror these of China Every day.
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